THE MOG BLOG continues...
I've been thinking about this for the last week or so. There's been so much to take in and think about. How can we here in Wales introduce and build on what we witnessed out in Finland? What lessons can we learn? How can we make sure this sharing of good practice and new ideas continues?
I'll start with the last question as we discussed this while we were out in Finland. One of the last exercises we did was to project to the year 2012 and what would information services for young people look like in our respective countries. I don't have the diagrams we made here although I believe they are on their way to me (thanks Elias). As soon as I get them I can post them somewhere along with the presentations.
My idea was to set up a Ning site where maybe we can begin sharing these ideas and plan how this study visit can develop. I know we were discussing some kind of visit here to Wales? I'd really like to move ahead with this and see what develops and how we can use the outputs to inform and develop wider networks (e.g. EYCA and ERYICA?).
We can discuss this on this blog with a fantastic new tool I found out about from Tim Davies who was using "Cover it Live" to "instant blog" a conference around Digital Inclusion and Social Capital here in the UK - check it out in action HERE. This tool is great and may serve as a useful (and open source) solution to holding online youth work and discussions as it has built in moderation as well as a toolbox for storing media and picking up twitter feeds . The interface can be placed on a web page with no fuss. @all on the study visit: Maybe we could schedule an online meeting using CIL in order to discuss how we move forward with our findings from Finland. I've opened up the comments on my blog so you don't need to be registered in order to leave a comment. Let me know what you think and I can organise it here. Maybe we can invite some information workers from the Wales network and beyond?
I'd like to point out a comment left on my blog from Tim (many thanx Tim):
"Really enjoying reading your updates from Finland - and have noted down the Digital Generation elements in the Youth Strategy as key ones we should be learning from in UK.
Where should we be looking to capture learning coming out of efforts to put all of the good ideas from the Finnish Youth Strategy into practice?"
Again I'd really like to emphasise how impressed I was at the Digital Generation aspects of the youth policy in Finland. Elias, maybe you have some ideas of where there may exist already some examples of this online?
For me, there seems at the moment to be something of a gap in provision between digital inclusion, youth work and information work. In my presentation I was banging on about the lack of difference in these fields but yet practitioners have been able to "set up camp" as it were often in the most remote parts of this one field; sometimes erecting lines of defense and distinct policy borders.
The "joined up thinking" and open source philosophy which for me is at the heart of youth work, is often clouded and complicated by the interpretation of policy makers who sometimes allow only a few favourites into their ivory towers (at the worst), or produce policy based on Chinese whispers that come from the ground.
For me, all of these activities go absolutely hand in hand; digital and media literacy is essential as we move forward to an increasingly digital future. In Finland there seemed to be a massive call for "online youth workers", which is fine if there is equality of digital access, whereas here in the UK and definitely in Wales, the idea of universal digital literacy and access is still just that; an idea.
At Canllaw Online, the Gwireddu project aims to try and create equality of access for young people by providing digilabs (over 100 at present) across Wales, especially in those areas most deprived, as without access then there can only be exclusion for those young people; the same young people who lost out in many other policies and initiatives due to lack of access and support.
To promote and deliver digital equality and minimize digital exclusion, it's crucial for us to provide not only the means of access but FACILITATED access: youth workers who provide information, facilitators who promote digital competence and media literacy and not (as I heard a politician say recently) just providing internet access in libraries and community centres. Is this where young people are? If they are at these places are they confident and literate enough to use the kit effectively and creatively? Are they able to develop and produce content?
As well as this, there are of course the inevitable "banned" sites within local authority access points. In the case of the politician I mentioned earlier, despite his show of media competence through having a facebook profile, a twitter account etc, young people in Wales, far from being more connected to decision makers are in fact being excluded from them by virtue of these sites being banned in most local authority provision.
Our call at Canllaw Online is for facilitated access that provides opportunity, in the best tradition of youth work, for open discussion, for the promotion of media literacy and digital competence as opposed to censorship which in itself can be a contributory factor to exclusion, especially for those (great number) of young people who have no access at home.
Another action point to come out of this for me is the often hypocritical nature of youth work and the "one way" traffic of empowerment. It strikes me that the Finnish youth policy has been truly informed by both practitioners and young people across the country and thus reflects a real dialogue between all interested parties. As youth workers we are always extolling the virtues of empowerment and encouraging participation based around the UNCRC, for young people; but what about us as workers?
It seems to me to be often the case that youth workers feel that their opinion is not important, decision makers are "not interested" in how we feel about youth work on the ground. Perhaps we need to be more empowered as workers in order to express and input into national policy. In terms of information work, we always recognise that information for young people should be CRAP (Concise, Relevant, Accurate and fit for Purpose), with this as our mantra (especially the fit for purpose part; being age and audience specific) all we need do is be aware of our client group and present the information accordingly.
That is, we can employ our "youth work skills" to engage with all people regardless of age and therefore empower ourselves to contribute in a louder voice to policy, instead of having to be reactionary to policy in which we feel our voice has not been represented; after all, would we stand by and allow the voices of young people to be treated in this manner?
Wow, that was a bit much? Didn't expect all that to roll out! But then again, whenever I get the chance to work with people from other countries, there seems always so much to bring back, and so much to share.
This blog is being fed into the Youth Information Wales (YIWC) network too, so I'd be really interested to find out how everyone feel s about how we may be able to work together with our European colleagues for mutual benefit and for the benefit of the young people involved.
As well as this I'd also like to point you in the direction of UK Youth Work Online where there are many discussions around digital engagement as well as links to research, new ideas etc. from across the UK.
Hopefully we'll soon have a space where we can begin to develop and implement some of the learning outcomes from the study visit. @Study Group; please let me know if you want to meet up online and I'll get started.
One Final Point
When I returned from Finland, it was the final day of the EYCA conference in Cardiff organised by Canllaw Online. Around 100 members from all across Europe attended and the conference was a fantastic success. All of the effort and organisation form the Canllaw team was volunteered as we have all been made redundant in the last 2-3 months.
We are a small team and I think the level of commitment and enthusiasm to the development of resources for young people (both on and off line) here in Wales and in Europe has been shown to be pretty much unstoppable.
I've been unemployed since the end of March this year, but I believe that there is still much to done and I am committed to continuing this work. My great thanks to all who have, and continue to support us and the work that we believe in.
As a final treat, I invite you to witness the traditional Welsh folk dancing...perhaps this explains a lot about the Welsh (keep you're eyes peeled around 1:18...yes we all dance like this here!!!!!). CHECK IT OUT